Chichester: Pippa explores the art of the stage


After enjoying a successful association with the play Pitcairn in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre last year, Emsworth-based artist Pippa Blake returned to the venue to serve as artist-in-residence on a very different kind of drama.

This time, she was sitting in on the creative processes behind Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (which closed last week) by Frank McGuinness and starring David Haig, a piece inspired by hostages in the Lebanon in the 1980s. You couldn’t wish for a more contrasting piece.

Pitcairn had a large cast and all the colour of a South Seas island; Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me had a cast of just three, chained and forced to survive in a cell.

“I was very interested in the play as a subject matter, partly because I have been doing a lot of work over the past five years to do with conflict and war. This was taking me back to an area I enjoyed and was also very poignant especially when you think about the situation that we have got going on now.

“It is a wonderful play. It is going to be quite a challenge because this play is very much about the language of the play. There are three hostages in this captive situation, but there is a lot of humour. The challenge is to represent that language and that humour, but obviously it is also going to be very dramatic.

“The set is fantastically lit. I love the lighting. The set is fairly minimal but very evocative of the place, a bare cell in a very industrial concrete space – a dingy cell with old pipes. It is completely different. Pitcairn was a cast of 15. This is just three, and the actors are chained and there is no contact with each other. It is very static, but having said it is very static, it amazing how much movement there is.”

Pippa joined rehearsals after a couple of weeks: “At the beginning there was a meet-and-greet session where you go around and say what you do. I said ‘I am artist in residence’, which gets a few funny looks! But they have been interested. Pitcairn was a very young cast, and there was a lot of interest, and in this one, they will be interested, but I am very aware that they are totally focusing on getting on with their creative job, which is also what I am trying to do. It is not a collaboration (with Pippa), but I have been made to feel very welcome by the stage manager and the producer.”

The result will be a body of work in an exhibition: “It certainly won’t be within six months, and it probably won’t be within nine months. It is now really up to me to do the work. It will be some time next year. The exhibition will probably be in London and in Sussex again, but I have yet to pinpoint exactly where. I am in discussions with one or two places.”

Pippa was born in Portsmouth in 1954, studied fine art (painting) at Camberwell College of Art and in 2005 graduated from the visual arts programme at West Dean College.

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